Desperate measures

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:34 AM ET

Somewhere in south Florida, Doug Berry's ears must be burning.

Who knows, those recurring nightmares might even have returned.

You know, the one where he goes to his favourite blues bar only to find Troy Westwood's band playing Put Me in, Coach, over and over again.

Berry, you'll recall, had a love-hate relationship with Westwood in his three-year stint as head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers -- without the love.

Going into that third, fateful season, Berry cut Old Lefty outright, a decision that haunted him every time Alexis Serna missed a field goal or shanked a punt in '08.

It wasn't exactly a smooth parting of the ways, but it wasn't the first time, nor will it be the last, that an aging veteran has been sent kicking and screaming into retirement.

That's why it was so interesting to hear current coach Mike Kelly talk about bringing Westwood back the other day.

The Professor took a not-so-veiled shot at Berry for the way he handled the whole thing, saying Old Lefty was "unceremoniously disbarred" from the organization.

"That isn't how we want to treat Winnipeg Blue Bombers," Kelly said. "For him to be more or less discarded the way he was ... I don't want players who are longtime Bombers to think that's the kind of fate they face at some point."

In other words, Kelly is righting a wrong from the Berry regime.

Funny, because when we asked the Professor about Westwood in training camp, he had no such desire, suggesting there was as good a chance of bringing Chris Walby back as there was Westwood.

Clearly, this is about the desperate need for a punter, and who better to handle the late-season elements then Old Lefty, who sports a decent 42.6-yard career average.

But we wonder what Berry would be thinking, as he continues to rip open paycheques from the team that fired him for his inability to fix a deteriorating offence.

I can't help but think he's laughing all the way to the bank.

Berry was fired after a season in which his team averaged 281 yards passing per game, 373 yards total offence. And that wasn't good enough.

The Professor's class is averaging a CFL-worst 194 yards through the air, 301 total.

Berry's choice of quarterback, Kevin Glenn, discarded by the Professor (not that we objected), has thrown 15 touchdown passes as a backup in Hamilton. Winnipeg's quarterbacks have managed 13, combined.

Glenn has five interceptions this season, while the Bombers give up that many in a couple of games.

It's not all bad, of course.

The Professor has coaxed stellar work out of Serna. His secondary does things Berry's never could, namely cover and catch the ball on a regular basis.

And there's been no danger of anybody getting complacent, unlike the final year of Berry's reign where complacency ran amok. Kelly's changing half the roster going into training camp saw to that.

But where is this franchise today, compared to 11 months ago?

Further behind, especially at the most critical position. If there's a good prospect at quarterback, we don't see him -- partly because nobody but Michael Bishop gets to play.

You could argue the rest of the team looks better. But I seem to recall Greg Marshall's defences being pretty darn solid.

Special teams? OK, right now we'll give that one to Kelly, after a horrible start in the return game.

The bottom line is this: at 6-9, the Professor will be hard-pressed to match the 8-10 mark that saw Berry get the pink slip.

I'm pretty sure that's not what anybody had in mind.

And, with all due respect to Old Lefty, it's far more important than the way you handle the last days of the career of a kicker.

Contact Paul at paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca or 632-2788.


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